Gainesville Daily Register
Gainesville City Council members unanimously approved a resolution during Tuesday’s regular meeting that removed the status of “park land” from the city’s Locke Field, freeing the area for commercial development.
The approved resolution was the primary step in a controversial process that may convert the area — also known as Fair Park — from a historic baseball field to a 144-unit apartment complex valued at $10 million during 2013.
Despite a tentative agreement with Richard Brown Property, Fair Park is still not firmly destined to become apartment housing. But council’s ability to approve the resolution stems from an election during May 2010, where voters enabled city officials to lease the 9.14-acre property at Fair Park. During that same election, a second ballot item allowing officials to sell the property was voted down.
But the decision to render the field a “non-park” area and lease it for commercial use was made possible by 2010 votes, and Mayor Jim Goldsworthy explained Tuesday to the meeting audience that Fair Park is now largely obsolete as an athletic facility and would bring more value to Gainesville as a residential hotspot near Interstate 35.
“We are blessed with an incredibly low unemployment rate and incredibly high sales tax revenue and we want to make the most of that,” he said. “We want to have housing additions and it’s got to start somewhere. And somewhere, for us, is with apartments.”
Goldsworthy also acknowledged the opposition to the lease that some city residents have vocalized. During the meeting’s public comments section, opponents and proponents of the Locke Field raze addressed council.
Ron Melugin of the Cooke County Historical Commission said Locke Field deserves preservation as a touchstone of local history. He reminded council that Gainesville is the smallest city in America to sustain a “Class B” baseball franchise and that Locke Field remains the only “covered grandstand” stadium still in operation from the days of the Center State League, which once included Sherman, Paris and Greenville.
“Locke Field is our Wrigley Field,” he said. “It has been our field of dreams.”
Other meeting highlights (minutes supplied by City Secretary Kay Lunnon):
• Council authorized “Change Order No. 1” to the contract with Lynn Vessels Construction for the Street and Utility Maintenance Project (SUMP) Package C, adding $77,681.50 to the total contract amount, to pour a recessed concrete pavement and relay the bricks in the intersection of Dixon and Broadway streets. This will stabilize the brick street in this area of the intersection. Pavement on Dixon Street north of the intersection to Cummings Street will be brushed concrete with a brick crosswalk. The original contract did not include work at this intersection.
• Council completed first reading of a resolution approving decision of the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) for a revenue sharing agreement between the GEDC and Complete Energy Services – Well Services. The agreement is in consideration of Complete maintaining its manufacturing, procurement and sales function and other potential activities of operations in Gainesville. Under the sales tax rebate agreement, the GEDC would share (rebate) 50 percent of the 4B local economic development sales tax (0.25 percent) generated by Complete, over and above an initial excluded amount. As per state law, the GEDC projects receive two readings by the City Council prior to approval. Second reading of the resolution is scheduled for the city council meeting on Oct. 16.
• Council approved and adopted an ordinance establishing guidelines for granting tax abatement in the City of Gainesville.